Driving in the snow can be a challenge for any car. Even the most sophisticated all-wheel-drive system won’t do you any good when you have to slam on the brakes on ice or snow. For these conditions, a set of snow tires can help dramatically. They are made with a special rubber that is able to stay soft and malleable even in cold snowy conditions. This allows the car to grip the road better than when equipped with summer tires that can become hard like plastic in the same conditions. Snow tires are usually installed in the beginning of winter in anticipation of storms to come, but what if the winter is just cold? What if it doesn’t snow much at all? Do you still benefit from snow tires?
In this video posted by Engineering Explained, the host, Jason attempts to answer these questions by performing a series of stopping distance testes. He uses special equipment that measures his stopping distance, and he performs the tests using first his summer tires, and then his winter/snow tires. All tests were from 60 mph down to zero driving a Honda S2000.
Surprisingly, the results showed that in 25-degree weather with no snow or ice on the ground, the snow tires performed much worse that the summer tires. He recorded a stopping distance of about 130 feet with the summer tires and about 160 feet with the winter tires. This test proved that on this car at least, the winter tires don’t do a thing if it isn’t snowing. Interestingly, the snow tires felt more stable while braking as he didn’t need to compensate much to keep the steering wheel straight. In the end, the winter tires are much better in the snow, and it’s not very realistic to switch them out every time the snow melts. Just be aware that your stopping distance will be reduced when it’s dry out.